Studio wonder


Dear Artist,

In R.J. Palacio’s 2012 children’s novel Wonder, about a boy living with a rare medical facial difference, a middle school teacher named Mr. Browne encourages his fifth grade class to use precepts to guide the school year. “Like a motto,” says Mr. Browne. “Any saying or ground rule that can motivate you.” On the first day of school, Mr. Browne writes on the blackboard, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”


“A Tale in Blue” 2009
tea towel screenprint on linen
by Yayoi Kusama (b.1929)

In the studio, a precept can be a warm nudge or a non-negotiable command, and this nugget can bleed out past the easel and orbit everyday motions. “Basically, a precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things,” says Mr. Browne. When I was growing up, moving between my dad’s upper creative writing studio and his lower painting studio meant passing under a sign placed over the door that read, “Ask me if I care.” Today, the sign remains and I’m able to repeat the question to myself. I think of this precept as, among other things, an affirmation of love: love of art, love of work, love of life. Here are a few more ideas:


“Eyes of Mine” 2010
acrylic on canvas
by Yayoi Kusama

“I protect my private, creative space.”

“Each day is a mission of invention.”

“Each day is a mission of caring.”

“I share who I am through my work.”

“Better and better quality is always possible.”

“I cultivate and refine a personal system that serves my mission.”

“I can adapt when I need to.”

“I am part of a bigger creative whole.”

“Knowing they’re not perfect, I complete ideas anyway.”

“I lovingly give the world a reason to get behind me.”

“In order to keep going, I need only make something more.”


“Kusama in Flower Garden” 1996
acrylic on canvas, collage
61 x 73 cm
by Yayoi Kusama



PS: “An affirmation is a strong, positive statement that something is already so.” (Shakti Gawain)

Esoterica: For Wonder’s fifth grader Auggie Pullman, the school year tests his courage, joy and creativity in the face of adversity. “Sometimes I think my head is so big because it is so full of dreams,” says Auggie. When asked recently to give art advice to young people, 88-year-old artist Yayoi Kusama replied that real wisdom is gained through personal experience and that we must each independently arrive at our own precepts. “A true direction will come from overcoming adversity. Everyone — think deeply, fight harder and obtain splendid direction for your life. I wish for you to gain guidance from your deep thinking and spread your ideas all over the world in order to establish a wonderful life and world. I think that it is very important. Let’s fight together for it. It is my strongest wish as an artist.”


Download the new audio book, The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” (Epictetus)



  1. There are many variations, but I came across this one today : “ Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. Thanks for your inspiring article, Sara! Lynn, I like your quote, too. I’ve added that one and a couple of Sara’s to my ever-growing collection.
    Two of my favourites:
    “Always choose the red pill” :)
    And, “Bravery is the solution to regret.” (Robin Sharma) This one pushes me that little bit beyond my comfort zone – whether it’s in a creating a work of art or marketing it, or just taking that chance to go for something in life. I keep it as a sticky note on my computer.

    • Rachel Bushnell on

      a lovely bright thought for this grey December day. just getting over pneumonia. have written this out on a bright piece of fluorescent yellow paper. will keep nearby til the sunshines. from within. thank you, Robin.

  3. Great article. Nice quotations. Here’s another: “We get the Radio we deserve.” I said that. Merry Christmas Everyone!

  4. Thanks Sara – and everybody here. Another thought that I like: “He did each single thing as if he did nothing else.” –
    Charles Dickens

  5. Thank you for sharing this.

    Although not quite so inspiring, my favourite quote is:

    “Work hard on Monday morning, and then start winding down for the weekend”

  6. HELEN BURTON on DECEMBER 12, 2017 10:25PM

    Each reply above is inspiring. I am reading a book by Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, that motivates the reader to question “What on earth am I here for?” There are 40 chapters, to read one a day. Very thought-provoking, and encourages each person to strive to fulfill their destiny in a positive way. (With Divine guidance, but I don’t mean to be preaching here.)

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Featured Workshop

The Power of Paint; Creating the WOW factor in your paintings with Dutch artist Carole Boggemann Peirson
April 10, 2019 to April 17, 2019


Location: between Puerto Vallarta & Mazatlan, Mexico


Week-long workshop in gorgeous paradise retreat for beginning and intermediate students in oils (or acrylics with experience). You will learn how to create a painting with beautiful light that captures viewers’ attention and keeps them fascinated. Small group size guarantees personal attention.


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For more info, visit: or contact Carole at: or call: 001-757-678-3340 (EST). Wine Drinkard
oil on canvas
40 x 50 inches

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